Washington, DC— Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks on the Senate floor today in advance of a critical vote on Wall Street reform legislation. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“The Wall Street earthquake that sent shockwaves around the world hasn’t hit anywhere as hard as it hit Nevada.
“You can draw a straight line from the unchecked greed on Wall Street to the collapse of the housing market on Main Streets throughout my state. As soon as the big banks went down, the foreclosure signs went up.
“How did this happen? Let me put it this way: When you go to any of the great casinos across Nevada and put your chips on the table, you’re gambling with your own money. If you win, you win – and if you lose, you lose.
“But Wall Street rigged the game: They put our money on the table. When they won, they won big. The jackpots they took home were in the billions. But when they lost – and boy, did they lose big – they came crying to the taxpayers for help.
“The winnings were theirs to enjoy, but the losses were all of ours to share and to shoulder.
“That’s the way the market worked: It worked for a few fortunate ones in the big firms and worked against everyone else.
“So, when I say that’s how the market worked, what I really mean is that it didn’t work at all. It was badly broken – and it nearly bankrupted us.
“It cost eight million workers their jobs, millions of retirees their savings and millions of families their homes. It shattered our faith in our financial system.
“But there’s another problem: We’ve been talking about this rigged system – this raw deal – in the past tense. But it’s not a thing of the past. It’s very much in the present.
“The rules that allowed Nevada’s economy to collapse are still the same rules of the road today. And that means every new day we don’t act, we run the risk of it happening all over again.
“That’s a gamble I’m not willing to take. The bill before us makes sure we don’t have to.
“The first question was: How did this happen? The next question is: What are we going to do about it?
“One, we’re saying to those who gamed the system: The game is over. We’re cracking down on those who gamble away what so many have worked so hard to put away.
“And two, we’re saying to families and taxpayers: Never again will you be asked to bail out a big bank when that bank loses its risky bets. Let me say that again, because it’s one of the most important parts of this bill: No more bailouts, because no bank is too big to fail.
“We’re going to give consumers and investors the strongest protections they’ve ever had against abusive banks, mortgage companies, credit card companies and credit-rating agencies.
“We’re going to bring derivative markets that operate in the darkness out into the daylight.
“We’re going to hold Wall Street accountable because we know we’re accountable to the American people.
“This is about our ability to trust in our financial system. It’s about giving families the peace of mind they deserve – the peace of mind that comes with knowing they will be able to keep their homes and that their savings will be safe.
“Yes, we need the free market to thrive and grow and succeed. But there also have to be some rules – not to stifle it, but to safeguard us. Rules so that when these firms fail, they don’t bring us down with them.
“When this earthquake hit, there wasn’t nearly enough oversight, transparency or accountability to shield us from the fallout. This law will strengthen all three.
“We’re at the finish line this morning, but getting here hasn’t been easy.
“Wall Street doesn’t like this bill – of course it doesn’t. Why would they want us to change the system they rigged, the system that made them rich?
“Their cronies in Washington don’t like it either. The top Republican in the House very publicly said the plight of millions was as small and insignificant as an ‘ant.’ The head of the Republican Party asked us simply to trust Wall Street to look after itself.
“But we all know this crisis is enormous, and we all know Wall Street isn’t going to reform itself.
“Rather than standing up for taxpayers, those who are about to vote ‘no’ are standing with the same bankers who gambled away our jobs and our economic security in the first place.
“Just like their Wall Street friends, it seems our opponents care more about making short-term gains than they do about what’s right for our economy in the long run.
“I think that’s a mistake, and a shame.
“This isn’t just about dollars and cents. It’s about fairness and justice. It’s about making sure there’s not a next time. It’s about jobs. And it’s about rescuing our economy.
“I know Wall Street reform is complicated. There aren’t many people who know all the ins and outs of derivatives trading or credit default swaps or mortgage-backed securities.
“But the principle before us is really quite simple: You either believe that we need to strengthen oversight of Wall Street, or you don’t.
“You either believe that we need to strengthen protections for consumers, or you don’t.
“Our choice today is between learning from the mistakes of the past and dangerously letting them happen all over again.”